It’s only the end of May, but the Rutgers men’s basketball team has clear direction as to who will be the leaders on the court next season. On Wednesday night, the program announced that head coach Steve Pikiell named senior center Shaq Doorson and junior forward Eugene Omoruyi as captains for the 2018-2019 season.
.@CoachPikiell has named Shaquille Doorson and Eugene Omoruyi as team captains for the 2018-19 season.— Rutgers Basketball (@RutgersMBB) May 31, 2018
Please join us as we congratulate R two new captains!#KnightAndDay | ⚔️ | #GoRU pic.twitter.com/lQA8bvz3Iu
I love this decision for several reasons.
Rutgers will have a very inexperienced team next season. The next few months will be instrumental in developing team chemistry and challenging each player to improve with fundamentals. Deciding on captains now enables the coaching staff to have two veterans they can lean on and push to get the most out of the entire roster.
Choosing Shaq Doorson makes a strong statement and at the same time, rewards a player who has persevered through more adversity than anyone on the current roster. Being a leader isn’t about the stats or the star quality. Coach Pikiell loves blue collar, hard working players and Doorson checks those boxes. Shaq has dealt with multiple injuries throughout his career, but has battled through them and finally appears to be healthy. He has a strong work ethic and is in line to either start at center or play key minutes off the bench next season. He is willing to do the dirty work down low and isn’t afraid to battle in the paint in the rugged Big Ten. His defense down the stretch last season was really good and he will serve as a great mentor to sophomore Mamadou Doucoure and redshirt freshman Myles Johnson. The Dutchman is also as nice and personable a player that I can remember in recent memory within the program.
Eugene Omoruyi blossomed as a sophomore in a season that he averaged 7.9 points on 47.3% shooting from the field, as well as 5.0 rebounds, 1.0 assist, and just under one block and steal in 21.7 minutes per game. In addition, Omoruyi proved, along with Mike Williams, to be the heart and soul of the team. When he went down with an injury in a game at Illinois, the entire team was deflated. His ability to come back much quicker than expected, only missing two games, and be a factor down the stretch was key. He actually improved on his season numbers once he returned, averaging 8.8 points on 50.8% shooting and 5.9 rebounds in the final eight games. His toughness and swagger were equally important and will be more so moving forward. He isn’t afraid to matchup against bigger players and plays with a chip on his shoulder. Omoruyi is well liked by his teammates and was the most improved player last season. If he can continue to develop his game this offseason, he could be a top three scorer and maybe even the leading rebounder on the team next season.
Of the eleven scholarship players eligible to play next season, only five have game experience at Rutgers. Doorson is the only senior on the roster and has been a loyal soldier for the program since arriving in 2014. Omoruyi was underrecruited and was a great late find by coach Pikiell at the end of his first summer on the job. The Canadian has become exhibit A in selling recruits on the staff’s ability to develop players. Having these two players designated as captains as the offseason grind truly begins makes a lot of sense. While some expected Geo Baker to be designated a captain, and it’s only a matter of time, he will still be a key figure in leading this program forward on the court next season. For now, anointing the two players with the most experience on the roster, aside from Issa Thiam, gives Pikiell a great resource to utilize in developing and pushing this team forward for next season.